Clerkship goals

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Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:27 pm

2L, median 1L at H with a SA for next summer. Strong upward trend. Limited to NY/NJ/MA. Probably back to private practice after firm (I'd love to prof, but I don't have more than a BA in a useless subject). What should my clerkship goals be and what do I need to do to get there?

Thoughts so far:
Not on a journal anymore and to the extent that it's still possible to join I don't want to - unless it's a deal breaker.
If I do incredibly well this year, maybe Appeals Ct. on 1st or 2d Circuit, feeder unlikely.
If I continue upward trend without vast improvement, is it worth going for district ct. in MA/NY/NJ? Would I have a shot at SDNY or D. MA? Are state courts/Supreme Courts worth a shot?
What are the employment ramifications for clerkships? I've heard that most firms will react positively to district court and above and hold your job for you, but what about finding a new one off the clerkship?
Are my thoughts reasonable? Any other thoughts welcome.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:35 pm

The one person I know that did D. MA clerkship had CCN+law review + incredible grades + overall good work experience prior to law school. I think you need to improve your stats considerably for Boston. I do not know directly about the other places you mentioned, but people on this board say that they are usually even tougher than Boston. Being a member of a journal is a useless activity... unless... unless... you want to clerk. So I would consider joining a journal. Good luck.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:47 pm

There are judges who use journal membership as a way to weed out applicants, so while there are judges who don't care, you're reducing your pool of potential employers without it. Generally, the advice seems to be that if you're not on a journal, you need to show writing ability in some other way - for instance, publications.

Also, it's definitely possible to go to a different firm from a clerkship - though of course it depends on what kind of clerkship and what job. It seems that usually the thing to do is start contacting firms ~ March of your clerkship.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:The one person I know that did D. MA clerkship had CCN+law review + incredible grades + overall good work experience prior to law school. I think you need to improve your stats considerably for Boston. I do not know directly about the other places you mentioned, but people on this board say that they are usually even tougher than Boston. Being a member of a journal is a useless activity... unless... unless... you want to clerk. So I would consider joining a journal. Good luck.

That sounds pretty harsh. If, e.g. Kent Scholar on Law Review with good work experience is necessary for D.MA then who's getting Circuit Courts? There are roughly 300 appeals clerkships, it seems, so the district court should start at the 300th most qualified law student in the country. Is it something about MA that is more competitive than other courts, or are all influential district courts like that?

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:There are judges who use journal membership as a way to weed out applicants, so while there are judges who don't care, you're reducing your pool of potential employers without it. Generally, the advice seems to be that if you're not on a journal, you need to show writing ability in some other way - for instance, publications.

Also, it's definitely possible to go to a different firm from a clerkship - though of course it depends on what kind of clerkship and what job. It seems that usually the thing to do is start contacting firms ~ March of your clerkship.
Well, that's part of the question. What kind of clerkships to firms look well on, and what kind to they scoff at?
I am going to work on publishing, we'll see how that goes.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby zomginternets » Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:There are judges who use journal membership as a way to weed out applicants, so while there are judges who don't care, you're reducing your pool of potential employers without it. Generally, the advice seems to be that if you're not on a journal, you need to show writing ability in some other way - for instance, publications.

Also, it's definitely possible to go to a different firm from a clerkship - though of course it depends on what kind of clerkship and what job. It seems that usually the thing to do is start contacting firms ~ March of your clerkship.
Well, that's part of the question. What kind of clerkships to firms look well on, and what kind to they scoff at?
I am going to work on publishing, we'll see how that goes.


As far as prestige, the rule for biglaw is: all firms look well on any Article III clerkship. Some rank better than others, and not necessarily COA > D.Ct. (e.g., SDNY/DDC might be looked on more favorably than the 8th Circuit). As a general rule, most firms respect state supreme court clerkships, particularly if in a populous state (NY Court of Appeals, CA Supreme Court, etc.). There are frequent disputes on this board over whether state supreme court's are invariably less prestigious than fed district court. Firms do not care for state appellate or trial court clerkships.

Edit: Non-Article III federal clerkships (i.e. fed magistrate judge) are probably not scoffed at, but probably won't help you get what you wouldn't have gotten without it.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:17 pm

3L at H. Here are some thoughts:

(1) Most clerkship applicants are significantly above the median. I have around 60-65% H's with 1 DS (after 2L year) and was told by OCS that my grades are "about average" for serious clerkship applicants. I also had a senior masthead position on a secondary journal, Ames, and an RA position. I got 4 calls - all with district courts - and a clerkship in a relatively small market. This is to say that without dramatically better grades, you are probably SOL in the three markets you picked, at least for Article III courts.

(2) D. Mass. is very competitive, particularly for the best judges in Boston (for instance, Saris, Young, and the like are as competitive as any SDNY judge). Everyone I know from HLS who got a D. Mass. position has awesome credentials (great grades, LR/BSA, great recs, etc.). The people I know who have First Circuit positions in Boston have even better credentials (either great grades + LR, or stupendously great grades and another journal). You may have better luck if you're willing to live in Worcester/Springfield. SDNY and EDNY are both very competitive too. DNJ is probably the least competitive of the courts you've mentioned, although the people who get DNJ tend to have strong NJ connections plus solid credentials.

(3) State Supreme courts are probably a good backup plan given your circumstances. My inclination is to say that Mass. SJC is probably the most competitive state supreme court in the country, but NY/NJ may be more manageable.

(4) I haven't heard of anyone at H having clerkship-related employment problems with their summer firm(s). Not saying it never happens, but I've never heard of specific cases in which firms got upset/annoyed by people taking a clerkship. My firm was incredibly supportive, FWIW.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:19 am

Anonymous User wrote:3L at H. Here are some thoughts:

(1) Most clerkship applicants are significantly above the median. I have around 60-65% H's with 1 DS (after 2L year) and was told by OCS that my grades are "about average" for serious clerkship applicants. I also had a senior masthead position on a secondary journal, Ames, and an RA position. I got 4 calls - all with district courts - and a clerkship in a relatively small market. This is to say that without dramatically better grades, you are probably SOL in the three markets you picked, at least for Article III courts.

(2) D. Mass. is very competitive, particularly for the best judges in Boston (for instance, Saris, Young, and the like are as competitive as any SDNY judge). Everyone I know from HLS who got a D. Mass. position has awesome credentials (great grades, LR/BSA, great recs, etc.). The people I know who have First Circuit positions in Boston have even better credentials (either great grades + LR, or stupendously great grades and another journal). You may have better luck if you're willing to live in Worcester/Springfield. SDNY and EDNY are both very competitive too. DNJ is probably the least competitive of the courts you've mentioned, although the people who get DNJ tend to have strong NJ connections plus solid credentials.

(3) State Supreme courts are probably a good backup plan given your circumstances. My inclination is to say that Mass. SJC is probably the most competitive state supreme court in the country, but NY/NJ may be more manageable.

(4) I haven't heard of anyone at H having clerkship-related employment problems with their summer firm(s). Not saying it never happens, but I've never heard of specific cases in which firms got upset/annoyed by people taking a clerkship. My firm was incredibly supportive, FWIW.


Did you reach the semifinals? And if not, did you still list Ames on your resume?

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:06 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:3L at H. Here are some thoughts:

(1) Most clerkship applicants are significantly above the median. I have around 60-65% H's with 1 DS (after 2L year) and was told by OCS that my grades are "about average" for serious clerkship applicants. I also had a senior masthead position on a secondary journal, Ames, and an RA position. I got 4 calls - all with district courts - and a clerkship in a relatively small market. This is to say that without dramatically better grades, you are probably SOL in the three markets you picked, at least for Article III courts.

(2) D. Mass. is very competitive, particularly for the best judges in Boston (for instance, Saris, Young, and the like are as competitive as any SDNY judge). Everyone I know from HLS who got a D. Mass. position has awesome credentials (great grades, LR/BSA, great recs, etc.). The people I know who have First Circuit positions in Boston have even better credentials (either great grades + LR, or stupendously great grades and another journal). You may have better luck if you're willing to live in Worcester/Springfield. SDNY and EDNY are both very competitive too. DNJ is probably the least competitive of the courts you've mentioned, although the people who get DNJ tend to have strong NJ connections plus solid credentials.

(3) State Supreme courts are probably a good backup plan given your circumstances. My inclination is to say that Mass. SJC is probably the most competitive state supreme court in the country, but NY/NJ may be more manageable.

(4) I haven't heard of anyone at H having clerkship-related employment problems with their summer firm(s). Not saying it never happens, but I've never heard of specific cases in which firms got upset/annoyed by people taking a clerkship. My firm was incredibly supportive, FWIW.


Did you reach the semifinals? And if not, did you still list Ames on your resume?


I did not, but I still note that I participated on my resume (as do most people who do it). The only reason I mentioned it is to show that the "average" clerkship applicant probably has a journal, Ames, an SA (or equivalent PI/Government position), and some other similar stuff on his/her resume - and this is just the people who aren't on HLR/BSA/HLAB. Given this, you would put yourself at a significant disadvantage by not having a journal on your resume.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:33 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:3L at H. Here are some thoughts:

(1) Most clerkship applicants are significantly above the median. I have around 60-65% H's with 1 DS (after 2L year) and was told by OCS that my grades are "about average" for serious clerkship applicants. I also had a senior masthead position on a secondary journal, Ames, and an RA position. I got 4 calls - all with district courts - and a clerkship in a relatively small market. This is to say that without dramatically better grades, you are probably SOL in the three markets you picked, at least for Article III courts.

(2) D. Mass. is very competitive, particularly for the best judges in Boston (for instance, Saris, Young, and the like are as competitive as any SDNY judge). Everyone I know from HLS who got a D. Mass. position has awesome credentials (great grades, LR/BSA, great recs, etc.). The people I know who have First Circuit positions in Boston have even better credentials (either great grades + LR, or stupendously great grades and another journal). You may have better luck if you're willing to live in Worcester/Springfield. SDNY and EDNY are both very competitive too. DNJ is probably the least competitive of the courts you've mentioned, although the people who get DNJ tend to have strong NJ connections plus solid credentials.

(3) State Supreme courts are probably a good backup plan given your circumstances. My inclination is to say that Mass. SJC is probably the most competitive state supreme court in the country, but NY/NJ may be more manageable.

(4) I haven't heard of anyone at H having clerkship-related employment problems with their summer firm(s). Not saying it never happens, but I've never heard of specific cases in which firms got upset/annoyed by people taking a clerkship. My firm was incredibly supportive, FWIW.


Did you reach the semifinals? And if not, did you still list Ames on your resume?


I did not, but I still note that I participated on my resume (as do most people who do it). The only reason I mentioned it is to show that the "average" clerkship applicant probably has a journal, Ames, an SA (or equivalent PI/Government position), and some other similar stuff on his/her resume - and this is just the people who aren't on HLR/BSA/HLAB. Given this, you would put yourself at a significant disadvantage by not having a journal on your resume.


Same anon as above (HLS 2L). Thanks for the response. Was just curious what the consensus was. Congrats on your clerkship. Any tips for the clerkship interview?

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby dood » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The one person I know that did D. MA clerkship had CCN+law review + incredible grades + overall good work experience prior to law school. I think you need to improve your stats considerably for Boston. I do not know directly about the other places you mentioned, but people on this board say that they are usually even tougher than Boston. Being a member of a journal is a useless activity... unless... unless... you want to clerk. So I would consider joining a journal. Good luck.

That sounds pretty harsh. If, e.g. Kent Scholar on Law Review with good work experience is necessary for D.MA then who's getting Circuit Courts? There are roughly 300 appeals clerkships, it seems, so the district court should start at the 300th most qualified law student in the country. Is it something about MA that is more competitive than other courts, or are all influential district courts like that?


whats wrong with u? u vastly underestimate the number of highly qualified law students who apply to those 300 clerkships from other schools.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:47 am

dood wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The one person I know that did D. MA clerkship had CCN+law review + incredible grades + overall good work experience prior to law school. I think you need to improve your stats considerably for Boston. I do not know directly about the other places you mentioned, but people on this board say that they are usually even tougher than Boston. Being a member of a journal is a useless activity... unless... unless... you want to clerk. So I would consider joining a journal. Good luck.

That sounds pretty harsh. If, e.g. Kent Scholar on Law Review with good work experience is necessary for D.MA then who's getting Circuit Courts? There are roughly 300 appeals clerkships, it seems, so the district court should start at the 300th most qualified law student in the country. Is it something about MA that is more competitive than other courts, or are all influential district courts like that?


whats wrong with u? u vastly underestimate the number of highly qualified law students who apply to those 300 clerkships from other schools.

I mean, whatever. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume a Kent Scholar on LR is a rough proxy for someone in the top 300 law students in the country. The specifics are not important - the point is I just hadn't realized how competitive clerkships are.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby dood » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:54 am

Anonymous User wrote:
dood wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The one person I know that did D. MA clerkship had CCN+law review + incredible grades + overall good work experience prior to law school. I think you need to improve your stats considerably for Boston. I do not know directly about the other places you mentioned, but people on this board say that they are usually even tougher than Boston. Being a member of a journal is a useless activity... unless... unless... you want to clerk. So I would consider joining a journal. Good luck.

That sounds pretty harsh. If, e.g. Kent Scholar on Law Review with good work experience is necessary for D.MA then who's getting Circuit Courts? There are roughly 300 appeals clerkships, it seems, so the district court should start at the 300th most qualified law student in the country. Is it something about MA that is more competitive than other courts, or are all influential district courts like that?


whats wrong with u? u vastly underestimate the number of highly qualified law students who apply to those 300 clerkships from other schools.

I mean, whatever. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume a Kent Scholar on LR is a rough proxy for someone in the top 300 law students in the country. The specifics are not important - the point is I just hadn't realized how competitive clerkships are.


thats my point. im too lazy to explain it to u, but yeah whatever.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:02 am

Median HLS students with no LR are longshots for ANY AIII clerkship in this market. You have a virtually 0 chance of 1st or 2d Cir or the most "desirable" district courts like SDNY, Mass, etc. Sorry to be harsh, but it's extremely, unbelievably, shockingly competitive right now.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:16 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:There are judges who use journal membership as a way to weed out applicants, so while there are judges who don't care, you're reducing your pool of potential employers without it. Generally, the advice seems to be that if you're not on a journal, you need to show writing ability in some other way - for instance, publications.

Also, it's definitely possible to go to a different firm from a clerkship - though of course it depends on what kind of clerkship and what job. It seems that usually the thing to do is start contacting firms ~ March of your clerkship.
Well, that's part of the question. What kind of clerkships to firms look well on, and what kind to they scoff at?
I am going to work on publishing, we'll see how that goes.

Beyond what people have already said (AIII > state etc.), it totally depends on where you are and the firms and so on. I'm not on the east coast (or the west) so I can't say anything specific about the market you're targeting. Look at the websites for firms where you think you'd want to work, and see what their associates are coming in with. If they all have 1st and 2nd Cir. clerkships, that tells you something.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:52 am

Anonymous User wrote:Median HLS students with no LR are longshots for ANY AIII clerkship in this market. You have a virtually 0 chance of 1st or 2d Cir or the most "desirable" district courts like SDNY, Mass, etc. Sorry to be harsh, but it's extremely, unbelievably, shockingly competitive right now.

Not harsh at all. I don't think I will get a clerkship from median, the question was assuming that I do significantly better, and what other things I have to do to go along with that to get a district or in case of an amazing semester or two, appeals court.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Median HLS students with no LR are longshots for ANY AIII clerkship in this market. You have a virtually 0 chance of 1st or 2d Cir or the most "desirable" district courts like SDNY, Mass, etc. Sorry to be harsh, but it's extremely, unbelievably, shockingly competitive right now.

Not harsh at all. I don't think I will get a clerkship from median, the question was assuming that I do significantly better, and what other things I have to do to go along with that to get a district or in case of an amazing semester or two, appeals court.

The problem is that most circuit hiring and much district hiring (especially in the most competitive districts) happens in late winter/early spring. So you'll only have one semester to improve if you are seeking a 2014 clerkship. If you can improve significantly for your entire 2L year, you will be in a better position as to 2015 clerkships. With that said, your odds of improving significantly after 1L year are not that great. Most people who are after clerkships know how to play the grading game. That has two consequences: (1) ranks don't move a whole lot after 1L year; and (2) judges focus on 1L grades because they know that is the true equalizer.

I don't know how HLR works, but if you can get on it, get on it. If you can't, get on a secondary and become EIC. Improve your grades. Get chummy with all-star faculty who will make personal phone calls on your behalf. But don't get your hopes up. There are countless median/slightly above median HLS resumes that come into judges' offices. What separates yours? And why would a 2d Cir judge hire you over a magna/HLR grad or a top 10% at CLS/NYU or even the top few kids from lower ranked schools?

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Median HLS students with no LR are longshots for ANY AIII clerkship in this market. You have a virtually 0 chance of 1st or 2d Cir or the most "desirable" district courts like SDNY, Mass, etc. Sorry to be harsh, but it's extremely, unbelievably, shockingly competitive right now.

Not harsh at all. I don't think I will get a clerkship from median, the question was assuming that I do significantly better, and what other things I have to do to go along with that to get a district or in case of an amazing semester or two, appeals court.


i don't think you would be able to waltz in to a secondary journal and become EIC at this point or anything like that. good grades will help but even with straight H for 2L you are not going to be in competitive range for desirable district/appellate.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Median HLS students with no LR are longshots for ANY AIII clerkship in this market. You have a virtually 0 chance of 1st or 2d Cir or the most "desirable" district courts like SDNY, Mass, etc. Sorry to be harsh, but it's extremely, unbelievably, shockingly competitive right now.

Not harsh at all. I don't think I will get a clerkship from median, the question was assuming that I do significantly better, and what other things I have to do to go along with that to get a district or in case of an amazing semester or two, appeals court.


i don't think you would be able to waltz in to a secondary journal and become EIC at this point or anything like that. good grades will help but even with straight H for 2L you are not going to be in competitive range for desirable district/appellate.
Hmm. I'm starting to think that in my situation, it would not be worth it to pursue. It seems like my only realistic shot is random flyover, if that, and that's out of the question in my particular situation. I would have to try to get on a journal and gun hard on it, which is unlikely to succeed since I don't want to do it. I do have a relationship with a couple professors who seem well connected, and I'm working on grades anyway, so if I do amazing, I'll send out apps for the hell of it.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:10 pm

"HLS 3L" here. FWIW, I was paying attention to the lists of clerks that OCS was periodically releasing, and the *vast* majority of 3Ls who got district court clerkships (including in SDNY, DDC, etc.) got them on the plan. Agree that it's very difficult to get a COA clerkship on-plan these days. Most people I know who got them snagged them in late April - June.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 6:51 pm

Thoughts on externships with federal judges? Do they help for that specific judge? Do they help generally in the clerkship application process? Is it something worth doing spring semester of 2L?

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 6:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thoughts on externships with federal judges? Do they help for that specific judge? Do they help generally in the clerkship application process? Is it something worth doing spring semester of 2L?

It can't hurt, but it is so far down on the list of factors that if you are sacrificing any chance at better grades/LR/publication etc you shouldn't do it. And some judges have a specific policy of NOT hiring externs/interns for clerkships.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thoughts on externships with federal judges? Do they help for that specific judge? Do they help generally in the clerkship application process? Is it something worth doing spring semester of 2L?


A friend at my firm got an Article III clerkship this way. He already had top 10% grades though, so I'm not sure how much it really helped him.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:23 pm

I think it varies - I know of one judge who has a practice of hiring his past interns, and another who has a policy of not hiring former interns. I think if you apply to judges who know the one you interned with, they'll probably ask about you, so if you do good work and the judge you intern for is willing to say good things, it can help a little. But you still need to have the stats to get across the threshold before they'll look at who you interned with.

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Re: Clerkship goals

Postby Fair_Balanced » Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:32 pm

Why clerk at all? If you want to go to a firm, go to a firm. Some random district court clerkship isn't going to meaningfully up your resume's prestige value over a degree from Harvard Law. Not all A3 clerkships are great learning experiences or pleasant, and you're losing money. Don't clerk just because it's hard to get. Clerk because it makes sense for what you want to do.




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